In 628, Muhammad launched a religious pilgrimage into Mecca that was perceived by Meccans as a military provocation. Muhammad stopped short of Mecca and arranged a treaty that would allow Muslims a peaceful annual spiritual pilgrimage, presumably to pray at the Ka'aba in Mecca.
This arrangement held for two years, after which time Muhammad declared that Meccans had violated the treaty. He led more than 10,000 men in a successful attack on Mecca. This solidified a belief of invincibility among Muslims (and many Arabs) that Islamic forces are protected by Allah and therefore cannot be defeated but will ultimately prevail.
Upon his victory, Muhammad assumed control of Mecca, destroying all of its pagan idols. Muhammad immediately negotiated or forced the surrender of surrounding Arab cities, converting them to Islam.
Soon after repelling the Meccans at Medina, Muhammad wrote letters to the known world's greatest leaders, inviting them to embrace Islam. In his letters, Muhammad said that the nations of leaders who converted to Islam would be safe, but predicted that those who did not convert to Islam would face calamity.
The Ka'abaMecca is the holiest of sites in Arab and Islamic traditions. Many people are aware that Muslims bow in prayer toward Mecca. However, when in Mecca, Muslims bow toward the Ka'aba, located in the center of the Grand Mosque of Mecca.
Ka'aba, Grand Mosque, Mecca
The Ka'aba (literally, "cube") is a granite structure about 50 feet high and roughly cube-shaped. Muslims believe the original Ka'aba was built by Abraham and his son, Ishmael. It housed hundreds of pagan idols until Muhammad's conquest, at which time he destroyed all the idols and rededicated the Ka'aba as a singular direction of worship as ordained by Allah to reflect His house in heaven.
Set in the Ka'aba's east corner today is the "Black Stone," a pre-Islamic spiritual relic some say is a meteorite and some believe is the only remaining piece of the Ka'aba as it stood in Muhammad's time. The Ka'aba was replaced in 692 with the structure that stands today. Entrance to Mecca today is forbidden to non-Muslims.